Accidents have an ironical connotation. While there is pain and loss on one hand, there is a beautiful sense of bliss and gain which many a time, can last a lifetime. Five years ago, for a bunch of 10 youngsters in the age group of 23-25, accidents were part of their lives.
Right from crashing codes, jumbled up applications, getting it big for a lapse from the technical team, to the pain, anguish and the feel of triumph while trekking through some of the toughest forest ranges and hills of Karnataka.
Software engineers by profession and avid wildlife enthusiasts by passion, the simpatico group of men have something that makes them stand apart, and tall.
Today, the group is anything but the nerds or geeks of the bygone era. Never to encounter the Hobson’s choice or being cunctators, they are handsome, stylish, lively, jovial and they live it loud.
But the bunch also live an accident which grew in each one of them, while on their trekking trips. Two and half years ago, the fortuitous discovery took shape in them and today they call themselves, Prowilderness.
The accident was a slow discovery that shocked and appalled them. The depletion of nature, wildlife and the people who have to live within the confines of receding forests, touched the group during every trip and as serendipity would have it, today, they are pursuing a passionate sentiment that perhaps not many would adhere to consistently.
Sandeep Ravillu, Sr. Quality Assurance Engineer with Oracle and the head of the group says, “We used to visit the Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta about 6-7 times in a year mainly because we all shared a common passion for trekking, wildlife and nature. During our frequent trips we realised that while we were getting closer to nature, we were also getting closer to a reality - depletion of nature and wildlife. That is when we decided to do something to preserve nature and the wildlife that existed within it. Prowilderness came to being, but though it is an unregistered group, we have so far completed about 10 projects.”
And what are their projects about? Strictly research oriented exploration of troubled people within the forest and hills.
“After some initial research and visits, we understood the problems of the particular area which has not been addressed by the concerned departments or the government. After about two-three visits, we finally launched our projects,” said Sandeep.
Their first project was the Bandipur range, where they saw the pathetic situation of the guards who had not seen their children for nearly 6-8 months and when sometimes there was no rice, they had to walk about 20-25 kilometers, stay there, procure the items and then go back. “They were also not armed well and life was really tough,” says Naveen S, the contemplative one in the group.
The group got close to many of these guards mainly during their visits to attend the tiger and elephant census, mainly to monitor the count. They stayed with the guards and understood their problems and accordingly worked out ways to help them. “We have provided about 750 jackets and raincoats to them. Later, we provided them fruit seeds which they planted in the anti-poaching camps where nobody is allowed. Now there are many fruit bearing plants in these camps,” says Sandeep.
After the group’s initial assistance, many people and associations like the Rotary Club and others came forward to help the guards and now, there is enough assistance for them. “So we moved out and started focusing on other areas,” says Bhanu Ravillu, Sandeep’s brother who is the most social in the bunch.
The group then looked at Manchenbele forest area where they felt Dabguli Government School adjacent to the forest area needed attention. They made several visits to the area and even educated the children about preservation of forests and donated books. “We visit the place once in 2-3 months,” says Sandeep. Every month, the group keeps aside a certain amount from their salaries for their initiative. “We also go for group funding and sometimes there are corporates who help us especially the Oracle Volunteers fund,” says Balaji Dashrath, the guy who has a knack for doing anything with money.
Every month, the group convokes twice, wherein they are assigned duties and fix a date for a recce on a date convenient to all. “Before executing the project, we have 2-3 such meetings,” says Suman Rapaka who along with Dayanand Hiremath are the capturing guys always on the lookout for the best shot with their cameras....
Now, Nagarhole and BR Hills is beckoning the group, and why? “Mainly because the region has a huge tribal population. We intend to meet them, understand their problems and help them in whatever way possible,” says Nikhil Chandra, who is the pensive guy in the group.
The groups’ sentiment over the depleting forest cover is evident, when Naren Prasad, the percipient nature guy says, “I used to see pictures of forests in Karnataka which were packed with trees juxtaposed with hues and shades of green - chartreuse, lime, bottle, jade and many more. But now, when we go to the forest range and climb up the hills, the greens seem to have lost its romance with colours.”
The group is now planning to get serious about their passion. “This year, we might register ourselves as an NGO and take up projects on a regular basis, streamline our functioning. Right now, it is only quarterly once,” said Sandeep.
The bunch intends to provide insurance to all the guards because they are all contract employees with danger facing them all time. “After registration, we will intensify our pursuit,” says Ashwin Jadhav, who is the creative face of the group. As of now, none has any plans to quit their jobs. “For the next five years, we will see how the registration format goes and then decide. After registration, we can approach corporates and even the government for funds. Once registered, we will run it at the same scale and not move to the large scale. After building a track record of about three years and take each step at a time, we hope to create a name for ourselves,” says Sandeep.
Their mentor is K M Srinivas Murthy, an industrialist who is also into conservation.
On whether being such a young group, the feeling of the spirit going down, once married, with many responsibilities to shoulder, Vinayaka Raju, the chirpy and buoyant guy in the group finally gets his space to speak. “All the unmarried has to do is batten down the hatches. Well, most from the group are married and that is probably one reason for us to delay the registration; to know how serious the guys are,” he smirks.
Three from the bunch are not married. The others are lucky enough, as their spouses also encourage them and even accompany on certain visits. As for Sandeep who just got engaged, he plans to continue his passion pursuit for life. “I am confident, my would-be-wife will have no problems. She encourages me instead,” he says.